Saturday, 24 March 2018

Eglwyswrw and the 1946 University Boat Race

Today will see the running of the 164th University Boat Race.

But there’s a little bit of Eglwyswrw hidden away in the Boat Race archives.

In the 92nd edition in 1946 sitting in Seat 5 for the Light Blues of Cambridge was Geoffrey Cunningham Thomas of Jesus College.

Geoffrey was born in Hirwaun, the son of Dr Benjamin Thomas and the grandson of the Surgeon Dr Ieuan George Thomas. His great-grandfather was Rev Benjamin Thomas, or ‘Myfyr Emlyn’ to go by his Bardic name who was born in the foothills of the Preselis in 1836 and who moved to Pantygarn in the village of Eglwyswrw in 1849 (his youngest sister Anna married Stephen Lewis of the neighbouring farm Carnhuan - they were my gg-grandparents).

Young Geoffrey weighed in at 13st and 9lb - the heaviest of any of the participants in either boat on that day, 30th March 1946. It was reported that many in the Light Blues had taken unwell in the days leading up to the race which hampered preparations but the race went on.

Sadly for Geoffrey and for the family honour, 1946 would be the only race in the first 6 post-war efforts that would see the Light Blues of Cambridge place 2nd!

Geoffrey eventually emigrated and married in Rhodesia in 1970. He passed away on 9th September 1999 in Waterfall, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa aged 73. To my knowledge he had no children and as an only child himself, his story will have been lost.

But he isn’t forgotten and neither is the fact that on this University Boat Race day, thanks to my Mam’s 3rd cousin, there is a little corner of west Wales that will forever support the ‘Light Blues’.

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